Manchester Speculative Fiction

The Last Writing Workshop of 2016

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As usual, these notes are being posted dreadfully late. My dog ate my homework, ok?

In any case, for those of you that didn’t know the December meeting w
as not your usual MancSpecFic Fayre. Space operas? There was none. Tales of sword
and sorcery? Absolutely not. Good old fashioned chillers? Not a jot. Instead, we sat down with pen in hand to take part in the last MancSpecFic writer’s workshop of the year.

Eight of us tackled an exercise named Writing by Committee. We each started off with a prompt – either a scenario or the opening line to a story – and got scribbling for ten-twenty minutes. When that time period was over we would turf what we had written over to the person on our right, and they would carry on the yarn. By the end of the night, we ended up with eight stories that had been written in some part by each of the eight attendees.

The aim of the exercise was not just to get creative with your own story, but to be consistent with the arc, voice, and characterization of the stories that were passed on to you. Surprisingly, we ended up with eight rather enjoyable, albeit ver
y strange stories. I’ve typed one of them for you below. Hope you enjoy!

Prompt One: A cultist is torn between his/her dark lord and his/her family

The air con stutters and a fly buzzes somewhere in the room. The incremental ticks of the clock suddenly seem important, like they hint at something I can’t quite glean the meaning of. Carrie snores happily beside me, the soft friction of air parting her nasal cavity in stuttered garbles. I check my phone to look at the time and I have to squint. The light feels invasive. The light always feels invasive.

It’s five am, kids will be up soon.

I flip over the pillow and try to sleep again. I find I’m afraid to close m
y eyes out of worry for what I’ll find staring back at me in the dark. I’m gripped by the absurdity of the notion. I’ve come to understand the moist hungering fabric of our universe, stared into yawning gape of an ambivalent cosmos, experienced truths that would break the minds of lesser men… and yet I’m afraid of what I’ll find on the back of my eyelids. I try to force myself to close my eyes. Then I hear the voice, whispered at first, then louder, and then as if it isn’t speaking at all, as if it’s an army of maggots that’s burrowed into my brain, communicating only by pheromones.

“Kill her,” It says. As it always does, just as I know that I must.

I don’t want to kill her, or them, but if I wasn’t meant to why
would he tell me to? Why would he tell me I must? That I will? That I already have? Saying
that it’s not happened yet, saying it’s a choice, it’s all an illusion. He’s shown me so.

“Kill her,” he says. Because he knows I will. Because I must. Because I have, just not yet.

The alarm clock sounds, cutting through my thoughts. She moves, turns, looks up at me with a smile.

“Morning, my love,” she says. She gets up, turns off the alarm and slips into her bathrobe. I watch her walk away into the bathroom. A moment later I hear the shower kick in.

I’ve made it through another night.

So has she.

I want to get up but my legs feel like lead. The voice has gone, but its echo remains. I hear the shower stop. She comes out towelling her hair.

“Do you want coffee?” she says.

“Yes please,” I manage.

“Well, you know where the pot is. Get the kids out of bed while you’re at it.”

I slouch downstairs to the kitchen, place a fresh filter in the coffee machine and fill the kettle from the tap. The water pressure is low from her shower, the drain a rotten mouth.

“Kill her,” it says.

I drop the kettle and leap back from the sink. He’s never
spoken to me in daylight before.

The shower stops upstairs. The kitchen falls silent. Footsteps pad across the ceiling. Small feet thunder down the stairs.

“Kill them all,” an inhuman voice gurgles from the sink. The kitchen door bangs open and my two children run in.

“Daddy!” they call in unison.

I plaster a smile on
my face and hope they don’t see through it. “What do we want for breakfast this morning,” I say.

“Sausages!” Charlie shouts.

“Anythings fine,” Sarah calls over her shoulder. “Dad, have you seen my jumper?”

As much as I love them, and he knows I do, the monotony is as torturous as the whispers. This morning, the conversation, it could have been any morning, it could have been every morning. I set breakfast down in front of them, cereal, not sausages, and look at them. They’re good looking kids, they get that from their mother, but that serious intensity in their eyes, the careful meticulous way they treat the smallest of tasks, they get that from me.

“Do it now!”

The voice is loud and as clear as a church bell. I can’t take much more.

“Now. Do it now. IT HAS TO BE NOW.”

Carrie comes downstairs. Her hair is still wet and she’s still wearing her pink dressing gown.

I know I have to do it now, I have to finish each of them. It’s a kindness really.

Carries looks at me. Cups my head in her hand.

“Don’t worry love,” she says, “It might never happen.”

“It already has,” I answer with sadness. But summoning my strength I get up from the table and walk out the door.

“NO!” he screams at me. My head is filled with a blinding, painful light…

…The air con stutters and a fly buzzes somewhere in the room. The incremental ticks of the clock suddenly seem somehow important, like they hint at something I can’t quite glean the meaning of.

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